A switch to longer passing eventually cracked a diamond midfield as it finished Spurs 1-0 Bournemouth at Wembley Stadium.
A diamond midfield gave Mauricio Pochettino plenty of food for thought. Spurs plodded through much of the match, but a conscious switch of formation and strategy proved the difference. Longer passes and quicker movement through the inside right channel saw chances and the only goal of the game as it finished Spurs 1-0 Bournemouth at Wembley Stadium.
Bournemouth’s diamond defence
Bournemouth came with a plan to stifle and frustrate. The Cherries went with a back five fronted by a midfield diamond that sought to keep Spurs out of the middle of the pitch.
The tactic was successful. Without Ben Davies, Mauricio Pochettino reverted to a 4-2-3-1 formation. This setup includes three advanced midfielders that drift centrally. Son Heung-Min, Dele Alli and Christian Eriksen ran right in to the heart of Bournemouth’s trap.
Width supplied through the full backs should’ve been the key for Spurs. However, with Jan Vertonghen playing as an emergency left back, Tottenham struggled to get forward. Vertonghen’s position was often ten yards deeper than he needed to be. This often contributed to the slow build-up of attacks.
The diamond formation gave Bournemouth a strong platform from which to launch their counter attacks. Junior Stanislas had a goal bound shot deflected wide by Davinson Sanchez’s chest. Hugo Lloris then made a world class save moments later from a corner.
Spurs down the sides
Diamond midfields need to be stretched. Ball movement, often from longer passes or switches in play, and width are key. In the first half Spurs struggled to provide this. Bournemouth’s diamond midfield had time to shuffle across the pitch, aided by Tottenham’s slow tempo.
Two moments provided the indicators of where the opposition’s weakness was. First of all Kieran Trippier hit a 40 yard pass in the direction of Dele Alli’s run through the inside right channel.
Trippier’s pass went straight over the diamond, taking it out of the game. Left back Charlie Daniels was pulled out by Trippier’s position. Dele Alli and Harry Kane were therefore afforded room to run the channels between a back three that had lost its wingbacks pinching in to protect it.
The second moment again highlighted the open inside right channel and moving the ball beyond or over the diamond midfield.
Bournemouth’s diamond was able to get over to try and pin Christian Eriksen by the touchline. However, Eriksen could chip the ball over it for Harry Kane’s run, as wingback Charlie Daniels was again lured out by Trippier’s position. Unfortunately, Kane bobbled his shot straight at Asmir Begovic.
Spurs switch formation and strategy
At half time, Mauricio Pochettino switched to a back three. Eric Dier dropped in between Toby Alderweireld and Davinson Sanchez. The team was then instructed to play much longer passes either over or through Bournemouth’s diamond midfield to by pass it.
The ploy worked immediately as Spurs took the lead. Davinson Sanchez is an underrated passer. His pinpoint ball in to Harry Kane’s feet started the move in the inside right channel and got play beyond Bournemouth’s diamond midfield. Once more wingback Charlie Daniels was pulled away from protecting his back three by the position of Kieran Trippier. The knock-on effect was space between the lines for Son Heung-Min.
Kane laid off Sanchez’s pass for Son who was on the back three with room to run. As a result, Nathan Ake was pulled out from his centre back partners, creating confusion.
The diamond raced back to try and engulf Son’s run and stop Spurs through the middle. However, Christian Eriksen had charged forward to join him. As the net closed around him, Eriksen somehow bobbled the ball through a very tame challenge by Simon Francis and was in the clear. As the ball sat up, Eriksen had only a brief instance to pick his spot before the mob arrived. Calmness and a deft finish were needed. Eriksen supplied it to open the scoring, Spurs 1-0 Bournemouth.
Spurs continue to bypass the diamond
A goal to the good and the team was inspired to look for a second. The players continued to look for longer passes over or past Bournemouth’s diamond midfield towards Kane’s runs through the inside right channel.
Kieran Trippier supplied the first ball over the diamond midfield, which took it out of the game. Harry Kane headed the pass in to the net, but his run through the inside right channel was too early.
Harry Winks then picked out a pinpoint pass for Kane’s inside right channel run. The diamond midfield was bypassed in one move, but Asmir Begovic wasn’t. The Bournemouth keeper raced out to smother Kane’s shot and then save the rebound.
Bournemouth’s attacking subs
With fifteen minutes to go Bournemouth abandoned its plan to sit back and play on the counter with two attacking substitutions. Jermain Defoe and Jordon Ibe entered the game as the Cherries sought a way back in to the match.
The pair combined instantly to almost provide it. A neat reverse pass by Ibe found Defoe’s run. The striker’s quick near post shot almost caught Hugo Lloris out. However, our goalkeeper kicked out a leg to spare his blushes and deny Defoe.
Sissoko in to a stretched game
At the same time Mauricio Pochettino introduced Moussa Sissoko. The Frenchman’s powerful runs have been a feature of his recent upswing in form. Pochettino sending Sissoko in to the action later in games has have proved an effective counter attack against tiring opposition. In fifteen minutes, he provided three good chances as Bournemouth conceded possession with numbers up field.
Sissoko’s first powerful counter attacking run with the ball saw a fierce left-footed shot by Christian Eriksen well saved. Bournemouth was then caught with men forward again as Sissoko set off once more. Dele Alli headed a neatly chipped cross just past the post as Sissoko’s pace and power wreaked havoc for the second time.
The third and final chance would be Tottenham’s best. Sissoko rampaged through midfield following a Bournemouth turnover. However, in a four on one situation, he over hit the pass towards Georges-Kevin Nkoudou. Introduced for his pace in what had become a counter attacking game, Nkoudou just got to the ball before Asmir Begovic. The goalkeeper took him out as they collided, but a better pass would’ve seen Nkoudou with a great chance to control and score.
Christian Eriksen drove the resulting free kick straight at Begovic and the match ended Spurs 1-0 Bournemouth. Three vital points gained.
Spurs 1-0 Bournemouth overall
Tottenham took a while to get to grips with the task. Initially hindered by our own formation and the personnel within it, the change of strategy paid off. A switch to a back three and much longer passes over or past the Bournemouth diamond midfield won the game.
The change of ploy was again another plus point that Mauricio Pochettino has markedly improved with his in-game tactical switches and tweaks in the last twelve months.
Pochettino is still left with questions though. On a day when we needed width, Jan Vertonghen at left back didn’t work. Vertonghen is capable, but lacks the foot speed and aggressive positioning required for Pochettino’s system. Without both starting left backs in Ben Davies and Danny Rose, the coach does need a third option. He has tried Son as a wingback and Vertonghen here too, but maybe its time to use the versatility of Kyle Walker-Peters?
Final score: Spurs 1-0 Bournemouth.
MOTM: Davinson Sanchez.